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New Deal WPA Art In Virginia

Post Office Artwork in Virginia - Most of the Post Office works of art were funded through commissions under the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture (later known as The Section of Fine Arts) and not the WPA.

“Often mistaken for WPA art, post office murals were actually executed by artists working for the Section of Fine Arts. Commonly known as “the Section,” it was established in 1934 and administered by the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department. Headed by Edward Bruce, a former lawyer, businessman, and artist, the Section’s main function was to select art of high quality to decorate public buildings if the funding was available. By providing decoration in public buildings, the art was made accessible to all people.” from “Articles from EnRoute : Off The Wall: New Deal Post Office Murals” by Patricia Raynor

Unless indicated, works of art are located in the US Post Office building.

Location Artist Title Date Medium
Alta Vista Herman Maril “The Growing Community” 1940 oil on canvas
Appalachia Lucile Blanch “Appalachia” 1940 oil on canvas
Arlington* Auriel Bessemer “Historical and Industrial Scenes – Sketches of Virginia” 1940 7 panels – mural (restored – see article below)
Bassett Walter Carnelli “Manufacture of Furniture” 1939 fresco
Berryville Edwin S. Lewis “Clark County Products, 1939″ 1940 mural
Bluefield Richard Kenah “Coal Mining” 1942 tempera
Chatham Carson Davenport “Harvest Season in Southern Virginia” 1938 oil on canvas
Christianburg John W. de Groot “Great Road” 1939 oil on canvas
Covington Lenore Thomas “Rural Life” 1939 three glazed terra-cotta reliefs
Emporia Andree Ruellan “Country Saw Mill” 1941 oil on canvas
Harrisonburg William H. Calfee “Country Fair, Trading Courthouse, Square” 1943 4 panels – mural
Hopewell Edmund Archer “Captain Francis Eppes Making Friends with the Appomatox Indians” 1939 oil on canvas
Luray Sheffield Kagy “Luray – 1840″ 1939 oil on canvas
Marion Daniel Olney “The Letter” 1937 plaster
Newport News
Post Office and Courthouse
Mary B. Fowler “Early Industries” and “Captain Newport Brings News and Aid to the Starving Colonists” 1943 unglazed terra-cotta
Orange Arnold Friedman “Upland Pastures” 1937 oil on canvas
Petersburg William H. Calfee “Agricultural Scenes in Virginia” 1937 oil on canvas
Petersburg Edwin S. Lewis “Riding to Hounds” 1937 mural
Phoebus William H. Calfee “Chesapeake Fisherman” 1941 fresco
Radford Alexander B. Clayton “The Return of Mary Draper Ingles” 1942 oil on canvas
Richmond, Parcel Post (to be relocated in the Federal Office Building, Richmond) Paul Cadmus “Pocahontas Rescusing Captain John Smith,” “Sir Walter Raleigh,” and “William Byrd” 1939 mural
Richmond, Parcel Post (to be relocated in the Federal Office Building, Richmond) Jared French “Stuart’s Raiders at the Swollen Ford, ” “Jeb Stuart,” and “John Pelham” 1939 mural
Rockymount Roy Hilton “Life in Rockymount” 1938 3 panels – mural
Smithfield William Abbott Cheever “Captain John Smith Trading with the Indians” 1941 oil on canvas
Staunton Florence Bessom “The First Reaper” 1940 terra-cotta relief
Strasburg Sarah Blakeslee “Apple Orchard” 1938 mural
Stuart John E. Costigan “Receiving the Mail on the Farm” 1942 oil on canvas
Tazewell William H. Calfee “Sheep – Mother and Child – Cow” and “Mining” 1940 oil on canvas
Virginia Beach John H.R. Pickett “Old Dominion Conversation Piece” 1939 oil on canvas


All mural images depicted on this site are used with permission of the United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

*Arlington County’s Public Art Program Announces Historic Murals Return Home – Arlington, Virginia

Auriel Bessemer’s seven New Deal-era murals, Agricultural and Industrial Scenes – Sketches of Virginia, have been reinstalled in their original home at the historic Joseph L. Fisher Post Office in Clarendon. This post office has served as the murals’ permanent home since the paintings were completed in 1940. The murals were commissioned by the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Art in order to beautify Arlington’s first federal building. Local artist, Auriel Bessemer, was paid $800 to paint images emblematic of national ideals and local history. By showing familiar, local destinations, such as Great Falls and Roosevelt Island, Bessemer contributed to a sense of local pride. During the recent renovation of this post office, the murals were conserved and the United States Postal Service loaned the murals to Arlington County for an 18-month exhibition at Arlington’s Central Library.

Now that the post office is renovated and open for business (as of March 26, 2007), the murals have been returned to their permanent home. The exhibition at the Central Library was coordinated by Arlington’s Cultural Affairs Division’s Public Art Program and funding was provided by The Keating Partners. The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) worked to ensure that the murals were restored as part of The Keating Partners’s Phoenix development project. For more information and/or high-resolution images, please contact: Caroline Danforth, Public Art Associate Curator, Arlington County, Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, Cultural Affairs Division, Public Art Program, - information courtesy of Caroline Danforth